AuthorDavid Gratzer

Reading of the Week: Psychiatrists & Patient Suicide – the New CJP Paper; Brain Wellness Spas (JAMA Psych) and Dr. Heidari on Her Mantra (NEJM)

From the Editor

It’s the call we dread, perhaps from a relative or the family doctor. The news catches us by surprise: the patient has died and suicide is suspected.

In the first selection from The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Dr. Zainab Furqan (of the University of Toronto) and her co-authors consider psychiatrists’ experiences with patients who die by suicide. In this qualitative analysis drawing on 17 interviews, they explore the emotional response. They conclude: “patient suicide is often associated with grief, shock, anxiety and guilt; emotions which are mediated by physician, patient, relational and institutional factors and have important ramifications on psychiatrists’ well-being and clinical practice.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In this week’s second selection, Anna Wexler and Dominic Sisti (both of the University of Pennsylvania) write about the potential and problems of off-label use for psychedelic drugs in light of likely FDA approval. In a JAMA PsychiatryViewpoint, they note: “With high public enthusiasm, extremely bullish investors, and hundreds of newly established brain wellness clinics, all the pieces are now in place for expansive off-label promotion and use of psychedelics to quickly mushroom beyond what is safe.”

Finally, in the third selection from The New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Shireen N. Heidari (of Stanford University) notes the incredible challenges of working during the pandemic – and the psychological toll. She describes her decision to seek care and her own recovery: “A year after making the decision to talk to my family and my doctor, I know that advocating for my own mental health was the best decision I could have made.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: African Nova Scotian Youth & Stigma; Also, Engaging Health Care Workers (Psych Services) and Therapy & Psychiatry (Psych Times)

From the Editor

Many with mental disorders don’t engage in psychiatric care or, if they do, it is after significant delays – problematic for obvious reasons. Some groups are less likely to engage, including young Black individuals with psychosis.

Why the hesitation? What are the concerns of these patients and their larger communities? In the first selection, a paper just published by the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Ingrid Waldron (of McMaster University) and her co-authors take a qualitative interpretive narrative approach, to engage African Nova Scotians – including those in a first episode psychosis program – attempting to answer these questions and more. Among their key findings: “barriers include a lack of trust in health care services and a dearth of African Nova Scotian service providers.” We discuss the paper and its implications.

In this week’s second selection, Dr. Doron Amsalem (of Columbia University) and his co-authors aim to improve health care workers treatment seeking; in a paper for Psychiatric Services, they describe an RCT for a brief video intervention, finding positive results. They write: “This easily administered intervention could increase the likelihood of care seeking by proactively encouraging health care workers with mental health challenges to pursue treatment.”

Finally, in the third selection, Mark L. Ruffalo (of the University of Central Florida College of Medicine) and Dr. Daniel Morehead (of the Tufts Medical Center) consider psychotherapy and psychiatry. In an essay for Psychiatric Times, they argue that this is “the great divorce that never happened.” They write: “For decades, critics and leading psychiatrists have worried that psychotherapy among psychiatrists will one day die out and be forgotten. Yet for decades, reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Health Care Workers’ Mental Health – There’s an App for That; Also, Treating Opioids (BMJ) & Dr. Bhushan on Her Bipolar (LA Times)

From the Editor

With the pandemic dragging on, health care workers report more and more burnout; some complain of depression and anxiety.

What could help? Dr. Sam N. Gnanapragasam (of King’s College London) and his co-authors consider an app designed to provide CBT and mindfulness techniques in a new British Journal of Psychiatry paper. The RCT study involves 16 English sites with over 1000 health care workers. They conclude: “our study suggests that the app was of modest benefit with no adverse effects for a sample of HCWs in England.” We look at the paper.

How to respond to the opioid crisis? In a new analysis paper for BMJ, Dr. Robert A. Kleinman (of the University of Toronto) and his colleagues argue for a different approach to the prescribing of opioid agonist therapy, drawing on the changes made in response to the pandemic. “Embracing a more flexible model of buprenorphine-naloxone dosing would allow better alignment of prescribing practices with the needs and preferences of clients.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Devika Bhushan writes about bipolar disorder for the Los Angeles Times. The essay is very personal: the pediatrician, who serves as California’s acting surgeon general and graduated from Harvard, describes her own experiences. As she notes, during her training, she “had a secret.” Now, however, she speaks openly about her illness. “Today, I live with bipolar disorder as a chronic and manageable health condition.” 

DG

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Reading of the Week: Cannabis Potency & Mental Health – the New Lancet Psych Paper; Also, Legalization & Poisonings (NEJM) and Nicholson on Her Son (CBC)

From the Editor

“In the USA and Europe, the concentration of THC has more than doubled over the past 10 years…”

So notes a new paper in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Canada legalized cannabis for recreational purposes four years ago; other countries have done the same, as have almost two dozen US states. But how has cannabis itself changed over time? What are the implications for mental health disorders? And public policy? In the first selection, quoted above, Kat Petrilli (of the University of Bath) and her co-authors do a systematic review of cannabis potency and mental health and attempt to answer these questions. Drawing on 20 studies, they find: “Overall, the evidence suggests that the use of higher potency cannabis, compared with lower potency cannabis, is associated with an increased risk of psychosis, and this risk is higher in people who use cannabis daily.” We look at the paper and weigh its clinical implications.

In the second selection, using Ontario data, Dr. Daniel T. Myran (of the University of Ottawa) and his co-authors consider the effect of edible cannabis legalization on poisonings of children. Writing for The New England Journal of Medicine, they compare jurisdictions with legal sales (Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario) with a province that hasn’t legalized that form of cannabis (Quebec). “Our data indicate that legalization was associated with marked increases in hospitalizations for cannabis poisoning in children.”

And, in the third selection, Shirley Nicholson writes about substance and stigma with a deeply personal essay. In this piece for CBC First Person, she discusses her son’s struggles and his death from an overdose. She writes: “He didn’t plan to die at 27. He was more than his addictions. He was our son, our brother, our grandson, our nephew, our cousin and we all loved him so.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: After COVID – the New Lancet Psychiatry Paper; Also, Clark on Therapy (QT) and Physicians, Heal Thyselves (JAMA Net Open)

From the Editor

The first reported cases were almost three years ago. Yet, with this pandemic, many questions remain. No wonder. The patient experience is so varied. Some of our patients complain of time-limited, mild symptoms. Others seem affected by ongoing, non-physical symptoms. And many haven’t had any symptoms.

How common are neurological and psychiatric problems? Do they last? Are they less common with newer variants? This week, in the first selection, we consider a new Lancet Psychiatry paper; Max Taquet (of the University of Oxford) and his co-authors try to answer these questions and others. Drawing on the health records of almost 1.3 million people with a recorded diagnosis of COVID-19 and focusing on 14 different outcomes (including anxiety and mood disorders) across eight nations, they find: “post-COVID neurological and psychiatric outcomes followed different risk trajectories: the risk of cognitive deficit, dementia, psychotic disorder, and epilepsy or seizures remained increased at 2 years after a COVID-19 diagnosis, while the risks of other diagnoses (notably, mood and anxiety disorders) subsided early and showed no overall excess over the 2-year follow-up.” We look at the paper and its clinical implications.

In this week’s second selection, we consider a new Quick Takes podcast interview with David Clark (of the University of Oxford). Prof. Clark speaks about IAPT, the UK’s program to expand access to psychotherapy, which he co-founded. “We’ve still got some distance to go, though, but the IAPT services are seeing about a million people a year who wouldn’t have previously had psychological therapy.”

Primary care has an essential role in our health care system. In the third selection, Emily Rhodes (of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute) and her co-authors mull physicians and their personal connection to primary care in a new JAMA Network Open paper. They find: physicians are less likely to be rostered with family docs, and less likely to visit them. They conclude: “Emphasis on the importance and improvement of access to primary care for physicians is a potential means to improve overall health for physicians and patients.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Buprenorphine for Opioids – the New AJP Paper; Also, Cannabis & Hospitalizations (CJP) and Dr. Rosenberg’s Career & Illness (NYT)

From the Editor

A rise in substance use. Staff shortages and burnout. Waits for care.

The problems of the pandemic on mental health care have been clear and unfortunate. But how has care changed – and possibly improved – over the pandemic? In the first selection, Lewei Lin (of the University of Michigan) and her co-authors look at buprenorphine treatment before and during the pandemic. In a new paper for The American Journal of Psychiatry, they find a shift in care and a success story: “The number of patients receiving buprenorphine continued to increase after the COVID-19 policy changes, but the delivery of care shifted to telehealth visits…” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

In the second selection, drawing on Canadian data, Chungah Kim (of Brock University) and her co-authors look at cannabis legalization and cannabis-related hospitalizations. In this new Canadian Journal of Psychiatry brief report, they find: “the initial legalization was followed by clinically significant increases in cannabis-related hospitalizations; however, the subsequent increase in retail stores, availability of cannabis edibles, and COVID-19 pandemic was not associated with a further increase in hospitalizations in Ontario.”

In the third selection, we consider the life and legacy of Dr. Leon E. Rosenberg with the obituary from The New York Times. Dr. Rosenberg had a storied career – a pioneer in genetics research, a dean of Yale, and the chief science officer at Bristol Myers Squibb. He’s also a person who had bipolar disorder and took lithium. “I am proof that it is possible to live a highly successful career in medicine and science, and to struggle with a complex, serious mental illness at the same time.”

Please note that there will be no Readings for the next two weeks.

DG


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Reading of the Week: Tobacco & Cessation – the New NEJM Paper; Also, the Health of Health Care Workers (JAMA)

From the Editor

He could barely get out of bed because his depression was so severe. Yet he asked to be discharged because he wanted to smoke.

So often our patients struggle with their tobacco use disorder. But what medications have the most evidence? Do apps help? What should a clinician say during a brief encounter? This week, we consider a new paper written by Dr. Peter Selby and Laurie Zawertailo (both of the University of Toronto), just published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The authors summarize the latest in the literature, offering a relevant review that provides answers to these and other questions. And they note the devastation caused by tobacco use: “The risk of lung cancer is 25 times as high and the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke is 2 to 4 times as high among smokers as among nonsmokers.” We summarize the paper and mull its clinical implications.

And in the other selection, Dr. Lisa S. Rotenstein (of Harvard University) and her co-authors think about well-being and burnout in a JAMA paper. In recent years, this topic has gathered more and more attention. That said, Dr. Rotenstein and her co-authors don’t focus on physicians and nurses, as many authors have, but consider other health care workers. They argue: “The everyday functioning of the health care system depends on hundreds of role types. Leaders must seek to address obstacles and causes of work-related frustration not only for physicians and nurses, but also for the home health care workers, nurses’ aides, respiratory therapists, and many others who serve patients every day.” 

DG

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Reading of the Week: Prevention With Mindfulness for Kids? The New EBMH Study; Also, Ending Seclusion (Psych Services) & Morrison on Her Silence (CBC)

From the Editor

Our patients tell similar stories about their experiences with depression: of strained and lost relationships, of job opportunities that didn’t work out, of the pain of the illness itself.

Could all this be avoided? The attractiveness of prevention is obvious. In the first selection, Willem Kuyken (of the University of Oxford) and his co-authors describe a program focused on those 11 to 16 years of age. In this new EBMH paper, they use mindfulness training. The intervention is randomized, involving 84 schools. They conclude: “In a fully powered, rigorous, cluster randomised controlled trial we found no support for our hypothesis that school-based mindfulness training is superior in terms of mental health and well-being compared with usual provision over 1 year of follow-up in young people in secondary schools.” We consider the paper and its implications.

In the second selection from Psychiatric Services, Gregory M. Smith (of the Allentown State Hospital) and his co-authors analyze Pennsylvania’s move to eliminate seclusion and restraint events. Drawing on nine years of data, they conclude: “The findings of this study provide compelling evidence that uses of seclusion and restraints can be reduced or eliminated in both civil and forensic populations, with benefits to both the persons being served and their support staff.”

And, in the third selection, lawyer Helen Morrison considers mental illness and stigma. In this essay for CBC First Person, she notes her own journey and her fears about how people would react to her having bipolar disorder. She finds support with her faith group and others. She writes: “I want people to know that being diagnosed with a mental illness need not be earth-shattering. Faulty brain chemistry should be seen as just another chronic medical condition.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: ECT & Suicide – the New Lancet Psych Paper; Also, Violence & Psych Trainees (Acad Psych) and Dr. Murthy on Burnout (NEJM)

From the Editor

In a recent survey, 20% identified fear of death as a major concern with ECT. One of the oldest treatments in psychiatry is also its most stigmatized and feared.

And is it also underappreciated? Is ECT a lifesaver for those who are suicidal? In the first selection, Dr. Tyler S. Kaster (of the University of Toronto) and his co-authors attempt to answer that question with a propensity score-weighted, retrospective cohort study comparing those who received ECT and those who didn’t, using Ontario data. In The Lancet Psychiatry, they write: “1 year after discharge from a psychiatric hospital, patients with depression who were exposed to electroconvulsive therapy had a nearly 50% reduction in the relative risk of death by suicide when compared with those who had not been exposed.” We consider the paper and its clinical implications.

We aren’t talking about candy

In the second selection, Dr. Victor Pereira-Sanchez (of the New York University) and his co-authors look at violence against European psychiatric trainees. In this Academic Psychiatry paper, drawing on survey data, they conclude: “Violence from patients is reported by many psychiatric trainees across countries in Europe, with very frequent verbal abuse and worrisome figures of physical and sexual assaults.”

Finally, in the third selection, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy (the US Surgeon General) writes about burnout and American health care workers. In The New England Journal of Medicine, he offers a practical plan, with an emphasis on reducing administrative burden, bettering mental health for health care workers, and changing culture to support well-being. He argues that action is needed: “we cannot allow ourselves to fail health workers and the communities they serve.”

DG

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Reading of the Week: Online DBT – the New JAMA Paper; Also, Prediabetes and Preaddiction, and Greenberg on the Delusional Ones (Acad Psych)

From the Editor

He cut himself out of frustration with a break-up. She came to the ED with suicidal thoughts after losing her job.

Some patients need help with ongoing self-harm and suicidal thoughts – but access to care is challenging, particularly for dialectal behavioural therapy. Could a simple intervention help? Could it be delivered virtually?

In the first selection, Dr. Gregory E. Simon (of Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute) and his co-authors detail a pragmatic randomized trial that evaluated two low-intensity outreach programs, aiming to reduce risk of self-harm and suicidal behaviour. In this new JAMA study, they conclude: “Compared with usual care, offering care management did not significantly reduce the risk of self-harm, and offering brief online dialectical behavior therapy skills training increased the risk of self-harm among at-risk adults.” We look at the study.

In the second selection, Thomas McLellan (of the University of Pennsylvania) and his co-authors note the failings of substance treatment and then mull a way forward: considering the approach to diabetic care and the concept of prediabetes. Should we embrace preaddiction? They write: “the diabetes example shows that an early intervention approach can work given a comprehensive, sustained effort.”

And in the third selection, Dr. Norman R. Greenberg (of Yale University) contemplates his patient’s psychosis and his approach. Drawing on an old Hasidic tale, this resident of psychiatry stops debating with his patient; he chooses to listen to him instead. He writes: “I may not always be able to convince others of my perspective, I hope that I am able to convince others that we share similar goals and that I care about them.”

DG


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